Sunday, September 9, 2007

Apple Reinvents the iPod Family of Digital Media Players

As expected, Apple, the maker of the world’s most popular digital media players, on Wednesday unveiled its new lineup of iPod players that reinvent the whole family of devices by either adding a new type of interface, higher storage capacity, high-resolution screen that allows watching videos or all of the above.

Apple Releases Highly-Anticipated iPod Touch

“The iPod touch is a landmark iPod, ushering in a whole new generation of features based on its revolutionary multi-touch interface and built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking. People are going to be amazed at how thin it is and how much it does,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive.
The new iPod touch – the device which introduction was anticipated for more than one year – features 3.5” touch-screen with 480x320 resolution, 8GB or 16GB of flash memory, 802.11b/g wireless network controller, Apple Safari web browser as well as YouTube application to access videos from the Internet. The new Apple iPod touch can playback music as well as videos in various formats.

Apple iPod touch has a built-in accelerometer that automatically senses when the device is rotated into its landscape position. When the player plays music, it automatically switches to Cover Flow so that users could browse their music collection by album cover artwork with just a flick of a finger. When it displays photos, it automatically displays the photo in its landscape aspect ratio; and when in Safari it displays the web page horizontally. iPod touch also has a built-in ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the display’s brightness. iPod touch features up to 22 hours of audio playback and up to 5 hours of video playback.

The new Apple iPod touch is scheduled to be available later this month. The 8GB iPod touch model will cost $299 and the 16GB iPod model has suggested retail price of $399.

Apple’s iPod Nano, iPod Classic Get New Design, Features

In addition to the new iPod touch, Apple introduced new versions of iPod classic and iPod nano. From now on, the only difference between the classic and nano will be sizes and storage capacities. Both iPod classic and nano will feature 320x240 screens and will be capable of both music and video playback.

“We’ve taken the most popular music player in the world and added stunning video playback just in time for the holiday season. The iPod nano just keeps getting better and better with each new generation,” Mr. Jobs said.

Available today, the 4GB iPod nano comes in silver for $149 and the 8GB model is available in silver, black, blue, green and a red special edition for $199. Both iPod classic models are available immediately worldwide in silver and black. The 80GB iPod classic model has manufactured suggested retail price of $249, while the even more capacious 160GB iPod classic will cost $349.

Gateway Sells Off Professional PC Business to MPC Corp

MPC Corp., a PC maker from the U.S., on Wednesday said it had signed a definitive agreement with Gateway to acquire Gateway’s professional business. The acquisition will help MPC to broaden the market segments it can serve and will help the company to strengthen its positions on the market of professional solutions.

Similar to MPC’s business, Gateway’s Professional business targets customers in education, medium-sized business, and government with customized solutions including PCs, peripherals and services. This acquisition would provide MPC with the customers, products and employees to compete at a larger scale in the PC industry. The combined revenue of MPC and Gateway’s Professional business in 2006 would have been $1.2 billion.

“We believe that the customers of MPC and Gateway’s Professional business will benefit greatly from this combination. The new company will be totally focused on the markets of government, education, and small-and-medium business, and will develop products and services to meet the specific needs of these customers. It will have the scale to enable it to compete better against larger rivals in the PC industry. In addition, our customers will gain access to a wider range of PC products and services and continue to enjoy high-quality, U.S.-based service and support,” said John P. Yeros, chairman and chief executive of MPC Corporation.

With this acquisition, MPC expects to gain a more balanced portfolio of customer segments, with strong positions in federal government, state/local government, K-12 education, higher education, small business and mid-sized businesses. The combined company would offer a complete line of PCs and related products and services, with particular emphasis in mobile products, all-in-one desktops, servers and storage solutions.

MPC would own the entire catalog of products and services from Gateway’s Professional business, and would make them available to both MPC and Gateway Pro customers. As part of the terms of the arrangement, MPC will migrate these products from the Gateway brand to the MPC brand within one year. Likewise, Gateway Professional customers would be able to purchase the entire catalog of MPC products and services.

Under the terms of the definitive agreement, upon closing MPC would acquire Gateway’s leased final assembly facility located in Nashville, Tennessee, including the assembly of the Gateway Professional products that are produced there. In addition, MPC would acquire the portion of Gateway’s Consumer Direct business that targets businesses with less than 100 employees. MPC would also immediately assume responsibility for all operations and warranty support associated with Gateway's Professional business.

Based on MPC’s current assumptions and estimates, the transaction is valued at about $90 million, which will be paid using a combination of securities and cash.

Intel to Bring Back 25W Mobile Processors, Intro Quad-Core Chips for Notebooks

In an attempt to further solidify its positions on the market of mobile processors, Intel Corp. next year plans to lower power consumption of standard chips for laptops and also to introduce quad-core microprocessors for mobile computers. Both introductions will increase notebooks performance and both will be a result of successful ramp of 45nm production technology.

For years thermal design power of mobile microprocessors has been rising despite of thinner manufacturing technologies and other innovations which forced companies like Intel along with notebook makers to lower power consumption of other key notebook components. But Intel plans to reverse that trend next year, when it introduces a dual-core chip with 25W thermal envelope. But in addition the firm also plans 44W quad-core offering for those who demand performance at any cost, claim documents seen by X-bit labs.

Currently all up-to-date dual-core Core 2 Duo mobile processors from Intel Corp. have thermal design power (TDP) of 34W – 35W, which is significantly more compared to approximately 25W thermal envelope of Intel Pentium M chips that the company shipped two or three years. Even though Intel and notebook producers managed to decrease power consumption of other components so that not to sacrifice mobile PCs’ battery life in exchange for additional performance, relatively high TDP of standard products increases design complexity of cooling systems and either means larger notebooks or forces usage of low-voltage processors with reduced performance.

Along with the new mobile platform code-named Montevina, Intel will introduce code-named Penryn dual-core processors with 25W and 35W thermal design power, which will add performance to thin-and-light notebooks without increasing their complexity or pricing. The new chips will be made using 45nm process technology and will emerge in Q2 2008. The initial lineup will contain three chips with 3MB of L2 cache, 1066MHz processor system bus (PSB) with 2.13GHz, 2.40GHz and 2.53GHz clock-speeds.

In addition to processors with trimmed power consumption, Intel also plans to release quad-core Intel Core 2 Extreme chip for mobile computers. The chip is projected to feature 12MB of cache, use 1066MHz PSB and have thermal envelope of 44W – 45W. The first quad-core mobile microprocessors are expected to emerge in the second half of 2008.
Officials for Intel Corp. did not comment on the news-story.

Art Lebedev Demos Assembled Optimus Maximus Keyboard

Art Lebedev, the developer of keyboards with built-in screens, has published a photo of its Optimus Maximus keyboard. The image is the first actual picture of the device as previously the company only demonstrated pre-rendered images that did not properly represented the actual device.

The photo published in an official blog of the Optimus project shows off the highly-anticipated Optimus Maximus connected to a power outlet, not a personal computer. As a result, the device cannot display any key-related information, but can only demonstrate that all of its keys do have embedded screens. The company indicated that the commercial Optimus Maximus would have tinted keycaps that look considerably better than the currently used transparent keycaps.
The image demonstrates that construction part of the development process has been almost done and that the device is on-track to be released commercially several months from now.
Optimus Maximus is a full-sized 113-keys keyboard with colour OLED screens located inside each key. The screens are 10.1mm² large and have 48x48 pixels resolution, according to its developers. Specially designed software will be able to change images on the colour screens depending on the program running.

Art Lebedev started accepting pre-orders on its Optimus keyboard on the 20th of May and it took the company 12 hours to pre-sell 200 keyboards that cost $1564 each.

The company planned to ship the first batch, or 200 pieces, of Optimus Maximus starting 31st of November. The company promised that in December, 2007 and January, 2008 it will ship another 200 and 400 units, respectively.

Palm Cancels Plans to Release Foleo Notebook

Palm, a leading supplier of smartphones and personal digital assistants, on Tuesday announced that it decided to cancel its Foleo mobile companion because the company decided to focus solely on its next-generation software platform. But while the plan to scrap the project seems logical, as the firm would have to support two software platforms going forward, the actual decision could be based on potentially lackluster welcome for the device among customers.

“In the course of the past several months, it has become clear that the right path for Palm is to offer a single, consistent user experience around this new platform design and a single focus for our platform development efforts. To that end, and after careful deliberation, I have decided to cancel the Foleo mobile companion product in its current configuration and focus all of our energies on delivering our next generation platform and the first smartphones that will bring this platform to market,” Ed Colligan, chief executive of Palm, wrote in the company’s corporate blog.

Palm announced plans to release its Foleo laptop back in late May. The company planned to sell the device for $499, a price-point of a smartphone, not a sub-notebook. Palm Foleo mobile companion was promised to feature with 10” screen, email client, Web browser and some basic software that allows checking emails’ attachments and performing other essential tasks. Palm said that the device weighed only 2.5 pounds would function on battery for 5 hours, a long time compared to mainstream small laptops.

The first notebook from Palm did not have its own GSM/GPRS/3G module, which means that it always needed a device that supported the aforementioned technologies to connect to the Net. Nevertheless, Palm Foleo could automatically synchronize with other Palm devices using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi wireless connection.

“Because we were nearly at the point for shipping Foleo, this was a very tough decision. Yet I am convinced this is the right thing to do. Foleo is based on second platform and a separate development environment, and we need to focus our efforts on one platform,” Mr. Colligan added.

Besides sub-notebooks, Palm’s Foleo would have to compete against ultra-mobile personal computers (UMPCs) from various manufacturers, which could lead to relatively poor sales of Palm’s device, as UMPCs have better functionality. Nokia, one of the primary rivals of Palm and the world’s largest maker of cell phones, announced back in 2005 its Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, which also allows advanced broadband Internet capabilities. Even though the product was available long before ultra-mobile personal computers (UMPCs) from various manufacturers, it still has not gained popularity. Palm also admitted that it needed to improve Foleo to make it a world-class product.

“Our own evaluation and early market feedback were telling us that we still have a number of improvements to make Foleo a world-class product, and we can not afford to make those improvements on a platform that is not central to our core focus,” claimed chief exec of Palm.
But while the first version of Foleo is now scrapped, the company does not rule out a possibility to release a similar device in future, when it has appropriate capacities in terms of development.

“Jeff Hawkins and I still believe that the market category defined by Foleo has enormous potential. When we do Foleo II it will be based on our new platform, and we think it will deliver on the promise of this new category. We're not going to speculate now on timing for a next Foleo, we just know we need to get our core platform and smart-phones done first,” said Ed Colligan.

Add-In Graphics Cards Market Rebounds in Q2 – Jon Peddie Research

After declining tangibly in the first quarter of the year, the market of add-in graphics boards rebounded in the second quarter both in terms of unit sales as well as average selling prices (ASPs). Market tracking firm Jon Peddie Research believes that one of the main reasons for the market recovery is introduction of cost-effective DirectX 10-compatible graphics chips.

According to Jon Peddie Research, about 21.1 million add-in-board (AIB) units were shipped in Q2 2007, along with about $5.8 billion in revenue (street value), which means that average selling price increased to $274, the highest ASP in about one and a half years and dramatic increase over the Q1 2007. The market research firm also noted that the Q2 was more than just a rebound making up for the Q1 drop, as the quarter looked respectable viewed in the year-to-year context as well, with units up 10.6%.

With Q1 now thankfully appearing as an anomaly, JPR sees a healthier short-term outlook on the market. Both AMD and Nvidia recently released more mainstream-priced product derived from their latest generation graphics processing units (GPUs). Nvidia has pushed out the cost-reduced GeForce 8600, 8500 and 8400 series to complement the top-of-the-line GeForce 8800 models in April, whereas AMD introduced its ATI Radeon HD 2600 and 2400 in May, offering up its latest R600 generation technology at lower price points as well.

It should be noted that Advanced Micro Devices started to ship its mainstream ATI Radeon HD 2000 products in June, which means that the lion’s share of DirectX 10 hardware now belongs to Nvidia. According to another market tracking firm Mercury Research, Nvidia in the second quarter of calendar 2007 supplied 75% of DirectX 10-compliant hardware.

JPR believes that the long-term, big-picture trend that will continue to pressure the AIB market is the encroachment of graphics processors integrated in chipsets (integrated graphics processors, IGPs). IGPs have vaulted Intel to the top of the graphics heap, taking a big chunk of the market formerly owned by add-in boards housing discrete graphics processing units. And beyond IGPs, the market will also have to deal with pressure from the impending combination of CPU+GPU coming in 2008.

Sapphire Readies Dual-Chip ATI Radeon HD 2600 X2

Sapphire Technology, the largest maker of ATI Radeon graphics cards on the globe, announced on Tuesday its new graphics cards that employ two chips from ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices. The novelties feature relatively high-speed memory chips and may truly allow the board to offer respectable performance levels. But what about compatibility?

Sapphire’s HD 2600 X2 graphics cards are equipped with ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics processing units clocked at 800MHz as well as with 512MB or 1GB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 1600MHz. Even though memory speed is considerably lower than that of ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics cards’ 2200MHz, it is also substantially higher compared to dual-chip ATI Radeon HD 2600 graphics board from GeCube, which means that the product has all chances to offer high performance levels and successfully compete against high-end versions of Nvidia GeForce 8600 GTS-based products.

ATI Radeon HD 2600 graphics processing unit (GPU) sports 120 stream processors (SPs), 8 texture units (TUs) and 4 render back ends (RBEs). Two of such processors will provide 240 SPs, still considerably less compared to one ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT that boasts with 320 unified shader processors.

But while performance of Sapphire’s dual-chip ATI Radeon HD 2600 X2 graphics card may be truly high, its compatibility is not as broad as that of Nvidia’s single-chip GeForce 8600 GTS. The card itself is physically slightly taller than the standard and may not fit into some computer cases. Moreover, the HD 2600 X2 is compatible with platforms based on AMD 580X CrossFire, AMD CrossFire Express 3200, Intel 975X Express, Intel P965 Express and Intel P35 Express chipsets only. Actual performance in 3D applications of any multi-GPU configuration depends on drivers, therefore, in some games the dual-chip graphics card may only demonstrate performance similar to a single-chip solution.

Sapphire HD 2600 X2 graphics card is available now to order by OEMs and to integrators building special projects requiring multiple display configurations. Retail availability will be planned according to regional demand.